This year has been an amazing year for mixed martial arts. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has put on a number of thrilling shows that launched the fans out of their seats with bone crushing knockouts. While not every show delivered on a large scale, the ones that did more than made up for it. Let’s review some of the best Octagon moments from the year so far.
The year was kicked off with a bang when Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping faced off in Brazil at UFC on FX 7. Belfort nearly knocked Bisping’s head into the seats with a high kick, starting a trend that continued when “The Phenom” did the same to Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8. Belfort has provided two of the most electrifying knockouts in the UFC this year, and will look to keep the ball rolling against Dan Henderson this November.
UFC 156 came in February and featured a Featherweight title fight between Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo. It was a great match, with Edgar turning it on late in a losing effort. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva also shocked the world with his comeback win over Alistair Overeem (although it may not be so shocking now).
Of course, Ronda Rousey made her successful Octagon debut at UFC 157, submitting Liz Carmouche via first round armbar to remain undefeated, signifying the beginning of an era that has swept MMA by storm. Rousey is now featured on the eighteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter opposite her rival Miesha Tate, who was stopped by Cat Zingano in the third round of their TUF 17 Finale bout in April. That car was a rousing event, with knockouts, submissions, and an upset when Kelvin Gastelum became the feel-good favorite of the year by taking a decision over the heavily favored (and hyped) Uriah Hall.
UFC on Fox 7 soon followed, providing a record-tying night of knockouts with eight. Josh Thomson impressed with his head kick finish of the tough Nate Diaz, and both Matt Brown and Chad Mendes made short work of their opponents as well. The card had the UFC’s momentum rolling, and May’s UFC 160 kept it going in a big way with three fights.
First, TJ Grant staked his claim at a UFC title shot by knocking out the highly ranked Gray Maynard. Although Grant was forced out of his title shot against Benson Henderson with a concussion, it put his name on the map. The Nova Scotian will face new Lightweight champ Anthony Pettis at a yet-to-be-named event for the 155 lb. title.
But the real stars of UFC 160 were Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. Seemingly entwined as rivals atop the UFC Heavyweight division, both put on a show that night. Dos Santos took on the incredibly tough Mark Hunt in the co-main, nailing “The Super Samoan” with overhand rights that would have felled an elephant. Ultimately, “Cigano” put Hunt away with a grazing spinning wheel kick, gaining another shot at the belt in the process.
Velasquez knocked out “Bigfoot” Silva once again, this time with a precise and deadly one-two combo down the pipe. It was a showcase night for two Heavyweights who have undoubtedly separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Then, in early July, came the whole Anderson Silva fiasco of UFC 162. Silva came into his bout with Chris Weidman different than before, with a seemingly nonchalant attitude. When he let Weidman hold the belt at the press conference, I thought something was strange. But all credit goes to Weidman, who, even though coming off a long layoff due to shoulder surgery, knocked out the showboating longtime champ in the second round. It sparked a huge uproar amongst the MMA community, and the two rivals will throw down in a rematch in the main event of UFC 168 this December from Las Vegas.
Just recently in August, the UFC made their big move to a new channel at Fox Sports 1. The inaugural event provided fireworks for the fans, with Travis Browne knocking out the falling Overeem with a front kick, and Chael Sonnen submitting the tough Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the first round. Matt Brown continued his surge at Welterweight, knocking out a solid Mike Pyle in a flash. It was a great debut for the UFC’s new home.
The UFC followed that up with another exciting card from Indianapolis, where Carlos Condit got his revenge on Martin Kampmann in the main event of UFN 27. It was a great return to the win column for “The Natural Born Killer,” who now calls for a match against the streaking Matt “The Immortal” Brown. Brazilian Lightweight Rafael dos Anjos also made a claim for a spot amongst the best Lightweights in the world by dispatching Donald Cerrone.
UFC 164 went down last weekend from Milwaukee, and Ben Henderson’s reign as champion ended when Anthony Pettis was crowned there. After getting pushed up against the cage for the majority of the first round, “Showtime” seemingly landed in trouble when he had Henderson on top of him. However, he turned the tables with a slick armbar that earned the verbal tap from “Bendo.” Josh Barnett also put on a show by returning to the UFC to destroy the quickly dropping Frank Mir in the first.
There were a few cards that didn’t deliver the best of action this year, but overall, the UFC has truly put forth a good product for MMA fans. With title fights galore in the coming months, there’s more great action on the horizon.
What was your favorite event of the year? There’ve been a ton of knockouts, but none were more entertaining in my eyes than the back-back performances of Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. It was two monsters at their best, dismantling their current foes to get their inevitable trilogy match scheduled. That’s going to be an epic fight on October 19th from the Toyota Center in Houston, and so should both GSP vs. Hendricks at UFC 167 and Weidman vs. Silva II at UFC 168.
It’s been a fantastic year for the UFC. Let me know your favorite event!!!